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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 141

Do this, my Phoenix, 'tis a generous part;
And share my realms, my honours, and my heart.
Let these return: our voyage, or our stay,
Rest undetermined till the dawning day."
He ceased; then order'd for the sage's bed
A warmer couch with numerous carpets spread.
With that, stern Ajax his long silence broke,
And thus, impatient, to Ulysses spoke:
"Hence let us go—why waste we time in vain?
[pg 177]
See what effect our low submissions gain!
Liked or not liked, his words we must relate,
The Greeks expect them, and our heroes wait.
Proud as he is, that iron heart retains
Its stubborn purpose, and his friends disdains.
Stern and unpitying! if a brother bleed,
On just atonement, we remit the deed;
A sire the slaughter of his son forgives;
The price of blood discharged, the murderer lives:
The haughtiest hearts at length their rage resign,
And gifts can conquer every soul but thine.213
The gods that unrelenting breast have steel'd,
And cursed thee with a mind that cannot yield.
One woman-slave was ravish'd from thy arms:
Lo, seven are offer'd, and of equal charms.
Then hear, Achilles! be of better mind;
Revere thy roof, and to thy guests be kind;
And know the men of all the Grecian host,
Who honour worth, and prize thy valour most."
"O soul of battles, and thy people's guide!
(To Ajax thus the first of Greeks replied)
Well hast thou spoke; but at the tyrant's name
My rage rekindles, and my soul's on flame:
'Tis just resentment, and becomes the brave:
Disgraced, dishonour'd, like the vilest slave!
Return, then, heroes! and our answer bear,
The glorious combat is no more my care;
Not till, amidst yon sinking navy slain,
The blood of Greeks shall dye the sable main;
Not till the flames, by Hector's fury thrown,
Consume your vessels, and approach my own;
Just there, the impetuous homicide shall stand,
There cease his battle, and there feel our hand."
This said, each prince a double goblet crown'd,
And cast a large libation on the ground;
Then to their vessels, through the gloomy shades,
The chiefs return; divine Ulysses leads.
Meantime Achilles' slaves prepared a bed,
With fleeces, carpets, and soft linen spread:
There, till the sacred morn restored the day,
In slumber sweet the reverend Phoenix lay.
But in his inner tent, an ampler space,
Achilles slept; and in his warm embrace
Fair Diomede of the Lesbian race.
Last, for Patroclus was the couch prepared,
Whose nightly joys the beauteous Iphis shared;
[pg 178]
Achilles to his friend consign'd her charms
When Scyros fell before his conquering arms.
And now the elected chiefs whom Greece had sent,
Pass'd through the hosts, and reach'd the royal tent.
Then rising all, with goblets in their hands,
The peers and leaders of the Achaian bands
Hail'd their return: Atrides first begun:
"Say what success? divine Laertes' son!
Achilles' high resolves declare to all:
"Returns the chief, or must our navy fall?"
"Great king of nations! (Ithacus replied)

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